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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Parents debate options to relieve Annandale school overcrowding

More than 150 people packed the Annandale Terrace Elementary School cafeteria Monday evening for the final community dialogue on the Annandale Regional Planning Study.
This session was targeted to speakers of other languages, and there were translators on hand to help people make sense of the four options to relieve school overcrowding in Arabic, Cambodian, Farsi, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Fairfax County Public Schools arranged buses to bring people from Bren Mar Park and Sleepy Hollow elementary schools.

Conversations with school officials and parents at the community dialogue sessions held over the past few weeks and a review of the written comments submitted to the FCPS website indicate that Option 4 (the non-boundary option) appears to be losing traction. At this point, the FCPS staff appears to be most likely to recommend a plan that blends elements from the other options.

Option 1 appears to make too few changes to have enough of an impact on reducing overcrowding, while Option 3 would create the most split feeders and would be the most disruptive in terms of keeping neighborhoods together.

In general, it seemed that many parents at last night’s meeting like the schools their children attend and don’t want them to be moved farther away from their homes.

A native of Bolivia said he likes the diversity at Annandale Terrace and prefers his kids move on to Poe Middle School, because it is closer to his home, than Holmes. Another parent, originally from Somalia, said she is happy with Annandale Terrace but is concerned about overcrowding and large classes.

Andrea Garris, the principal of Annandale Terrace, said she would like to address overcrowding at her school, which is about 200 students over capacity. She said it would make sense to move residents of the Fairmont Gardens apartments out of Annandale Terrace because it’s dangerous for them to cross Route 236. Under Options 1, 2, and 3, all the Annandale Terrace students who live on the other side of 236 would go to Woodburn Elementary School or the new school at the Lacey site.

A woman from El Salvador said she would like to keep her children at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School and said she prefers Option 3 because she would like to keep the sixth grade at Sleepy Hollow.

A parent with a child at Bren Mar Park Elementary School said Fairfax County Public Schools should have provided more time to get the word out to parents about the impending boundary changes. This parent, a U.S. native, said she prefers Option 4 (the non-boundary option) because “it would preserve the community.” She doesn’t like the other options because they would require students to cross the beltway.

School board member Sandy Evans acknowledged “it is getting less and less likely” that Option 4 would be adopted. While that proposal does have some strong proponents, she said, the comments submitted to FCPS at the community dialogues and to the website do not indicate “overwhelming support” for this option, which such a creative, outside-the-box measure would need.

Parents of Wakefield Forest Elementary School students have sent a lot of e-mails to the FCPS staff, Evans noted, but that community represents three distinct views: Parents on the western area of that school’s attendance zone don’t want their kids sent to Lake Braddock Secondary School. Those on the east side have mixed views, with some wanting their children sent to Poe Middle School and Annandale High School and others preferring Frost Middle School and Woodson High School.

Evans said she has received a lot of “very well reasoned, very thoughtful” comments from parents of students at Belvedere Elementary School. “They have done a lot of research,” she said. Among their key issues: the need to keep their community together and avoid a split feed.

A challenge for Evans has been keeping the Bren Mar Park community aware of what’s going on. That school was not included in the original study committee, so parents were surprised when they learned their school was added to the process and their boundaries might change.

Evans said parents would have had more time to consider the various options if the FCPS staff had come out with the four options a few weeks earlier. The staff could announce its recommendations as early as June 16. The changes then must be approved by the school board before taking effect for the 2012 school year.


  1. Here is one opinion from Edsall Park.

    We have lost our elementary school (now the Plum Center) and our high school (TJ), now two of your options have us going out to Twain and Edison. That is unacceptable for safety and extracurricular activities.

    I choose option 4 and then option 2.

    Tell them what you think. Fill out the same survey we filled out at the meeting.

    We will not be getting additional time on this issue. Make your voice heard.

  2. There is really only one way to go here. Option 4 is just too crazy and too disruptive, especially to the WFES kids who hit 4 different schools over 5 years -- the entire scheme is just unprecedented. Everyone is starting to realize that Option 1 doesn’t move enough students out of AHS, and Option 3 is going to enrage just about everyone. That leaves ... Option 2, or maybe Option 1 if they can find some more kids to move somewhere (WFES? N Spfield?). #2 moves enough students, causes far less disruption than #3, and will tick-off far fewer voters. 2 or a hybrid 1 is the best they have, unless they can reopen TJ.